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Re: Massachusetts Militia Research

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  • rcwiggin
    Hi Robert, I would be careful about Galvin. It s a good read, and you have to respect his starting point as an army historian, but this actually gets him into
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 22, 2013
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      Hi Robert,

      I would be careful about Galvin. It's a good read, and you have to respect his starting point as an army historian, but this actually gets him into trouble when (presumably on the basis of his military training) in several cases he imputes stuff that runs counter to the historical record or that is simply unsustainable within the context of the time. He loves to identify military strategy even where none exists, and occasionally, he is really off the wall.

      The blogspot, Boston1775, on the other hand, is an excellent collection of all things associated with the start of the Revolutionary War. J.L. Bell does an excellent job researching, and interpreting his material. You may have to dig through several years of blog postings to find what you want (if indeed he has even addressed militia organization and equipment), but his stuff is always good. Go to http://boston1775.blogspot.com

      I would recommend looking at the Introduction to "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the American Revolution," Vol. 1. It's about as good an overview as you're going to find.

      Unfortunately, militia organization is often misunderstood. Despite its 150 year history, it was still undergoing change in 1775. "Officially," every male from age 16 to 60 was part of either the training band or the alarm list. Many will purport to tell you exactly what those terms meant, but there is substantial evidence that the terms evolved into different meanings as the war progressed. Also, despite the "official" age requirements the evidence clearly shows that not everyone participated. I have not been able to identify why.

      In general, the militia system was organized by county, then by district (regiments), then by town (companies). But be careful. On only two occasions that I have been able to discover were the militia units called out intact (on April 19th, and for Dorchester Heights). Every other time, they were called out as detached units -- every 6th man, e.g., into new companies (at the district level) and regiments (at the county level). So the Worcester County militia was different every time it was called out, and is not to be confused with the 5th Worcester regiment (e.g.) which was the home unit in the 5th district, even if some of the officers were the same.

      The whole thing is confusing, and takes some study to get it right.

      Take a look, also, at my recent book, "Embattled Farmers," It deals with more than just the militia, but through the service profiles and the campaigns of the 252 Lincoln men, the militia structure emerges through the patterns of different militia call-ups.

      "Embattled Farmers" is the only work I know of that deals with the interplay of the Revolutionary War, and the service records of the men from a given community. It's a human story, and by extension it represents the stories of men from similar towns across New England. [It's available from the Lincoln Historical Society, at various Revolutionary sites, and Amazon. Or contact me.]

      Good luck, and keep digging.

      Rick Wiggin
      author of "Embattled Farmers: campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783" (Lincoln Historical Society, 2013).


      --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, Boston 1775 <Boston1775@...> wrote:
      >
      > Robert wrote:
      > <<Can anyone suggest a book or articles that would give an overview of the Militia units in Mass? I'm interested in learning about how they were formed, organized, trained, and what types of weapons & accoutrements were typical of the units from the area. >>
      >
      > I'd start with John Galvin's THE MINUTE MEN.
      >
      > J. L. Bell Boston1775@...
      >
      > Unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution at <http://www.boston1775.net>.
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
    • Tate Jones
      From county level up, any formal organization by brigade onward, or was that accomplished ad hoc according to contingency? Sent from my iPhone ... [Non-text
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 23, 2013
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        From county level up, any formal organization by brigade onward, or was that accomplished ad hoc according to contingency?

        Sent from my iPhone

        On Jun 23, 2013, at 6:26 AM, "rcwiggin" <rcwiggin@...> wrote:

        > Hi Robert,
        >
        > I would be careful about Galvin. It's a good read, and you have to respect his starting point as an army historian, but this actually gets him into trouble when (presumably on the basis of his military training) in several cases he imputes stuff that runs counter to the historical record or that is simply unsustainable within the context of the time. He loves to identify military strategy even where none exists, and occasionally, he is really off the wall.
        >
        > The blogspot, Boston1775, on the other hand, is an excellent collection of all things associated with the start of the Revolutionary War. J.L. Bell does an excellent job researching, and interpreting his material. You may have to dig through several years of blog postings to find what you want (if indeed he has even addressed militia organization and equipment), but his stuff is always good. Go to http://boston1775.blogspot.com
        >
        > I would recommend looking at the Introduction to "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the American Revolution," Vol. 1. It's about as good an overview as you're going to find.
        >
        > Unfortunately, militia organization is often misunderstood. Despite its 150 year history, it was still undergoing change in 1775. "Officially," every male from age 16 to 60 was part of either the training band or the alarm list. Many will purport to tell you exactly what those terms meant, but there is substantial evidence that the terms evolved into different meanings as the war progressed. Also, despite the "official" age requirements the evidence clearly shows that not everyone participated. I have not been able to identify why.
        >
        > In general, the militia system was organized by county, then by district (regiments), then by town (companies). But be careful. On only two occasions that I have been able to discover were the militia units called out intact (on April 19th, and for Dorchester Heights). Every other time, they were called out as detached units -- every 6th man, e.g., into new companies (at the district level) and regiments (at the county level). So the Worcester County militia was different every time it was called out, and is not to be confused with the 5th Worcester regiment (e.g.) which was the home unit in the 5th district, even if some of the officers were the same.
        >
        > The whole thing is confusing, and takes some study to get it right.
        >
        > Take a look, also, at my recent book, "Embattled Farmers," It deals with more than just the militia, but through the service profiles and the campaigns of the 252 Lincoln men, the militia structure emerges through the patterns of different militia call-ups.
        >
        > "Embattled Farmers" is the only work I know of that deals with the interplay of the Revolutionary War, and the service records of the men from a given community. It's a human story, and by extension it represents the stories of men from similar towns across New England. [It's available from the Lincoln Historical Society, at various Revolutionary sites, and Amazon. Or contact me.]
        >
        > Good luck, and keep digging.
        >
        > Rick Wiggin
        > author of "Embattled Farmers: campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783" (Lincoln Historical Society, 2013).
        >
        > --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, Boston 1775 <Boston1775@...> wrote:
        > >
        > > Robert wrote:
        > > <<Can anyone suggest a book or articles that would give an overview of the Militia units in Mass? I'm interested in learning about how they were formed, organized, trained, and what types of weapons & accoutrements were typical of the units from the area. >>
        > >
        > > I'd start with John Galvin's THE MINUTE MEN.
        > >
        > > J. L. Bell Boston1775@...
        > >
        > > Unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution at <http://www.boston1775.net>.
        > >
        > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        > >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • rcwiggin
        The standing militia regiments within a county reported to a single individual (logically a Brigadier General, which is so in the limited number of cases I ve
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 24, 2013
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          The standing militia regiments within a county reported to a single individual (logically a Brigadier General, which is so in the limited number of cases I've examined). Above that, I don't know the precise organization, except that there was clearly a statewide military hierarchy with a unified command structure appointed under the authority of the civil government.

          In the fall of 1774, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress assumed this authority, and appointed a set of general officers. After April 19, 1775, these militia officers took charge of organizing the new Massachusetts Provincial Army (separate from, but incorporating large numbers of individuals from the existing militia system). The Massachusetts Provincial Army, of course, was incorporated into the Continental Army a few months later, and much of the militia/Provincial Army leadership assumed similar Continental Army leadership positions under General Washington. Artemas Ward and William Heath are recognizable examples.

          It's reasonable to presume that the county regiments would have operated as a brigade when called into service. I suspect, however, that this was a rare occurrence. I haven't studied the pre-revolutionary periods, but my premise is that this was rare for a couple of reasons: 1) militia call-ups tended to be related geographically to the region of the perceived threat (therefore probably more likely to involve portions of a county than an entire county), and 2) the more general the threat, the more likely it was for the militia system to be used as a feeder for detached militia units the way it was used for most of the Revolution.

          On April 19, the general mobilization notwithstanding, the immediate response to the Alarm was largely localized, and there is little evidence of there being any command active in the field higher than regimental command. It would certainly be true that effective battalion command was largely trumped by the fast pace and confusion of the events of the day. David Hackett Fischer does place Gen. William Heath and Dr. Joseph Warren in the field directing a circle of fire on British troops from Lexington back to Charlestown, but he gives no suggestion of any coordination among units within a given battalion.

          For Dorchester Heights, on the other hand, the call-up was pretty general around much of eastern Massachusetts. I haven't examined the exact geographical extent of the call-up, but I suspect that there were several counties in which the entire militia was called into service, and it is logical to assume that this was done with brigade command intact.

          All of this goes beyond the scope of my research for "Embattled Farmers," which deals more with the service records (including militia service) of individual men-in-arms during the course of the war, and less with the militia command structure, per se. But it does appear that there was a fair degree of ad hoc organization according to the specific circumstances. What else would you expect of New England farmers?

          For anyone interested, "Embattled Farmers: campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783" is available from the Lincoln Historical Society, http://www.lincolnhistoricalsociety.org, at Buckman Tavern. Also at the Concord Museum, Minute Man NHP, and Something Special. Also on Amazon.com.

          --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, Tate Jones <militarymuseu45@...> wrote:
          >
          > From county level up, any formal organization by brigade onward, or was that accomplished ad hoc according to contingency?
          >
          > Sent from my iPhone
          >
          > On Jun 23, 2013, at 6:26 AM, "rcwiggin" <rcwiggin@...> wrote:
          >
          > > Hi Robert,
          > >
          > > I would be careful about Galvin. It's a good read, and you have to respect his starting point as an army historian, but this actually gets him into trouble when (presumably on the basis of his military training) in several cases he imputes stuff that runs counter to the historical record or that is simply unsustainable within the context of the time. He loves to identify military strategy even where none exists, and occasionally, he is really off the wall.
          > >
          > > The blogspot, Boston1775, on the other hand, is an excellent collection of all things associated with the start of the Revolutionary War. J.L. Bell does an excellent job researching, and interpreting his material. You may have to dig through several years of blog postings to find what you want (if indeed he has even addressed militia organization and equipment), but his stuff is always good. Go to http://boston1775.blogspot.com
          > >
          > > I would recommend looking at the Introduction to "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the American Revolution," Vol. 1. It's about as good an overview as you're going to find.
          > >
          > > Unfortunately, militia organization is often misunderstood. Despite its 150 year history, it was still undergoing change in 1775. "Officially," every male from age 16 to 60 was part of either the training band or the alarm list. Many will purport to tell you exactly what those terms meant, but there is substantial evidence that the terms evolved into different meanings as the war progressed. Also, despite the "official" age requirements the evidence clearly shows that not everyone participated. I have not been able to identify why.
          > >
          > > In general, the militia system was organized by county, then by district (regiments), then by town (companies). But be careful. On only two occasions that I have been able to discover were the militia units called out intact (on April 19th, and for Dorchester Heights). Every other time, they were called out as detached units -- every 6th man, e.g., into new companies (at the district level) and regiments (at the county level). So the Worcester County militia was different every time it was called out, and is not to be confused with the 5th Worcester regiment (e.g.) which was the home unit in the 5th district, even if some of the officers were the same.
          > >
          > > The whole thing is confusing, and takes some study to get it right.
          > >
          > > Take a look, also, at my recent book, "Embattled Farmers," It deals with more than just the militia, but through the service profiles and the campaigns of the 252 Lincoln men, the militia structure emerges through the patterns of different militia call-ups.
          > >
          > > "Embattled Farmers" is the only work I know of that deals with the interplay of the Revolutionary War, and the service records of the men from a given community. It's a human story, and by extension it represents the stories of men from similar towns across New England. [It's available from the Lincoln Historical Society, at various Revolutionary sites, and Amazon. Or contact me.]
          > >
          > > Good luck, and keep digging.
          > >
          > > Rick Wiggin
          > > author of "Embattled Farmers: campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783" (Lincoln Historical Society, 2013).
          > >
          > > --- In Revlist@yahoogroups.com, Boston 1775 <Boston1775@> wrote:
          > > >
          > > > Robert wrote:
          > > > <<Can anyone suggest a book or articles that would give an overview of the Militia units in Mass? I'm interested in learning about how they were formed, organized, trained, and what types of weapons & accoutrements were typical of the units from the area. >>
          > > >
          > > > I'd start with John Galvin's THE MINUTE MEN.
          > > >
          > > > J. L. Bell Boston1775@
          > > >
          > > > Unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution at <http://www.boston1775.net>.
          > > >
          > > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          > > >
          > >
          > >
          >
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
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